How to determine the length of damages in personal injury cases

In personal injury cases, damages continue until the person’s earnings and benefits are no longer affected by the injury. In other words, damages continue until the injured person is ‘made whole’, with the calculated damages making up for any economic impact the person suffered from the injury.

Injuries vary by person and by injury. The damage period, or the timeframe until the injured person is expected to fully recover, may be short or long. The period may be from the injury date until they are able to return to work full-time or until they find replacement employment. If they aren’t expected to recover, losses may continue for the length of their life.

One of the most important things to learn about your client is their recovery timeline after a personal injury. Doctors, life care planners, and vocational experts provide estimates about if and when someone is expected to recover. Their analyses also suggest if they will be able to return to work, and in what capacity.

When damages continue through their life, averages may be utilized. For earnings and benefits damages, this is commonly the work life expectancy or assumed age of retirement. Work life expectancies are the length of time someone is expected to be employed in the workforce. There are various approaches to determining worklife expectancy; the most common method using data of similar individuals’ work patterns. Learn more about worklife expectancies here.

In some cases, using a specific age as the worklife expectancy is more appropriate. For example, older workers closer to a retirement age may have a plan for retirement in place that they would likely have followed. This is common for government employees planning retirement with a pension plan.

For household services damages, while the injured individual may have been able to perform household services through their entire projected life expectancy, the spouse's age should be taken into account as they may have a shorter life expectancy. Further, any children may not have been living with their injured parent and may not be owed any household services, or they may have been planning to leave the house at a certain age.

Damage Guide calculates economic damages in personal injury, wrongful death, employment, and business cases.

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